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Roundup 2-26-2016

February 26, 2016

Contents

Transportation – Making Hillsborough Go Better

Transportation – The Gandy Connector Lives

Economic Development/List of the Week – Where is the Venture Capital?

Transportation – Oh, Those Wacky Express Lanes

Transportation – Clearwater Skyride, Cont.

Downtown – The Quest for Parking

Downtown – A Renovation

Bayshore – Another Building

Seminole Heights – Nope

Rays/St Pete – The Trop Lot

Where Is It?

MacDill – Whither NOAA?

TIA & Some History

Beer

________________________________________

Transportation – Making Hillsborough Go Better

Last week, we discussed the Go Hillsborough plan (at least what has been presented so far).  Specifically, we discussed the ideas for the NW County and pointed out that they are basically a paving plan with a little bus service and no real alternatives to the more congested roads, and that there was nothing to give hope to people in that area who want real transit in the future that they would ever really get it.  That led an exchange with a reader about the plan, which eventually led to that reader’s idea for fixing the Go Hillsborough plan.  Now that the County is once again discussing the Go Hillsborough plan and every commissioner seems to be coming out with their own plan, we are going to post that fix here because it has some merit:

Here’s the [simplest] way to fix it and even create the spine, and it literally takes three small changes:

– Move resurfacing to Property tax trust fund. Use the rest of that trust fund to create a walk & bike network. Shift all that money within the sales tax to transit. Half automatically going to buses (raising HART’s share to 33%).

– The rest is combined with cutting the useless BRT proposed for South County to fund a ferry TRANSIT network put out to bid and funding the county & city portion of CSX DMU/Commuter hybrid. [Allowing] both urban and Regional transit on the tracks.

– Finally, Adopt mobility fees along with code changes.

First, we are not sure how elaborate the ferry system should be, though the original proposal made sense. (We have no problem with having a preliminary ferry plan to expand it if there is demand).  As for the rest, we like it.  Paving should not eat up so much of the tax – it should eat none of it.  Paving is a normal yearly requirement of government.  Not doing it while giving out goodies is questionable at best.  Buses, while not the basis for a transit spine, are still very necessary for good transit – including the “last mile.”  Our system needs to be expanded.  South County BRT is not clearly needed at this point (it could be useful in the future), there are needs for closer in to the more populated areas, and a ferry to downtown from South County connected to a real transit system would take care of much of the BRT need.  Using the CSX rails with DMUs for a spine (with an additional downtown to Westshore stretch) makes sense and gives people the hope that they may eventually get real alternatives to driving – that they will be fully connected to a real network – and an idea of what may happen in the future. (Yes, we know there is a ways to go regarding the CSX rails, but still). And, of course, we need real mobility fees and real code changes to get out of the hideous planning that we now have and pay for future development.

It is late in the game if there is a referendum in 2016, but these are changes we could agree with.  They are worth discussing, though it is not clear that some (if not most) officials are really discussing any real plan in order to have real solutions.  And that is the real problem.

Transportation – The Gandy Connector Lives

There was news about the Gandy Connector.

Decades in the making, a $192 million project to build elevated lanes over Gandy Boulevard in Tampa took a key step forward Monday.

The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority approved paying up to $2.6 million to the engineering firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff to prepare conceptual and road plans for the project.

“It’s a significant investment,” authority executive director Joseph Waggoner said after the unanimous vote.

The firm also will help put together the criteria for a contractor to design and build the project, which would extend the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway 1.6 miles from its existing end at S Dale Mabry Highway to the Gandy Bridge.

That, in turn, will produce the detailed plans the authority will need when it goes out for design and construction bids in November or December.

The lanes, one in each direction, would be at least 30 feet off the ground and would be built on pilings in Gandy’s median. As on the rest of the Selmon Expressway, drivers would pay a toll to use them.

About 48,000 cars and trucks a day use Gandy. The elevated lanes would be expected to carry an estimated 18,900 vehicles a day.

So that is good because:

. . . four out of every 10 cars stuck on that road don’t want to be there. They don’t need to shop and they don’t want to stop. They’re just using it to get between the Gandy Bridge and the Selmon Expressway, moving between Tampa and St. Petersburg.

In other words, much of the traffic on Gandy does not really need to be there. We have a concern that just having one lane in each direction is kind of risky in terms of accidents, congestion, etc. . . though it is essentially a long exit ramp and better than what exists now. (More lanes would be better but they would be more expensive and more intrusive.) Of course, there is still some opposition:

Reached after the meeting, Alan Steenson, president of the Gandy Civic Association, said he was unaware that the vote was scheduled. Steenson said area residents still oppose the proposal, which he said won’t do much to alleviate traffic in the area and will only be used by drivers during rush hour.

“The congestion is still going to be there because of all the people who live down there,” Steenson said.

“It’s not going to be used more than four hours a day,” he said. “The rest of the day, we’re going to be sitting here looking at a 30-foot-high, two-lane road.”

Well, it will take cars off Gandy, which is good.  And all the people living in the area should have more road room, though there is a concern with induced demand, so people will be able to get to the businesses on Gandy.  Moreover, the road is not going through residential areas, it is going over a stretch of road with commercial uses that, in most places, extend quite a distance from Gandy. The road should have been built decades ago (along with an east-west road in the north).  It is a critical link in local infrastructure (and should be continued as limited access all the way to US19, which, even with the construction of a limited access stretch in Pinellas, is still not in the plans).

We’ll have to see if officials finally have the will to get this done.

And it will be especially important if new Port Tampa Bay gets built:

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From this site plan, there is limited connectivity to the local road network and sidewalks.  In addition, there still is not real transit in the area.  If the City plans on allowing this development and putting all those cars on the road, particularly if it is through a limit number of choke points that all will dump on Gandy eventually, they better get some cars off Gandy.

Then again, the City has caved and allowed development without adding the necessary infrastructure before, so we shall just have to see.

Economic Development/List of the Week – Where is the Venture Capital?

There was an interesting City Lab article on venture capital distribution nationwide.  You can read the whole article, but it has a couple of nice maps that help illustrate our particular issues.

First is a map gives VC spending in major metros:

From City Lab – click on map for article

Here is the list of Top 20 areas receiving VC:

San Francisco-Oakland; San Jose; New York; Boston; Los Angeles; Washington; San Diego; Seattle; Dallas-Fort Worth; Chicago; Atlanta; Philadelphia; Austin; Denver; Miami-Fort Lauderdale; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Raleigh; Houston; Santa Barbara; and Baltimore.

We are not on the list (though Miami makes it).

Second is a map of VC spending per capita, which helps show relative success in attracting VC:

From City Lab – click on map for article

And the Top 20:

San Jose; San Francisco-Oakland; Boston; Santa Barbara; Boulder, CO; Oak Harbor, WA; San Diego; Austin; Seattle; Grand Forks, ND; Raleigh; Provo; Culpeper, VA; Durham-Chapel Hill; Washington; Fayetteville, AR; Worcester, MA; Trenton, NJ; New York; Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA

As you can see, that does not help us much.

There has been a little flurry of VC in this area recently so maybe there is a little change, but that is the situation.  Whether it is a lack of good companies or just a lack of connections to money, or both, we have an issue.

Transportation – Oh, Those Wacky Express Lanes

Because FDOT is determined to build the TBX express lanes, it is useful to look at experiences in other areas, like Seattle. In the continuing saga of the 405 express lanes,

Governor Jay Inslee says he has a plan to help ease the gridlock. Standing in front of dozens of screens showing real-time traffic footage at the state’s new Transportation Management Center in Shoreline, Inslee said the state needs hone in on traffic problems.

He said although the I-405 express lanes have helped shorten bus commutes, drivers headed northbound have actually seen drive times increase.

“So for those drivers they have had substantial frustration. On average, their wait times, or their traffic times, has gone up about four minutes,” he said.

Whoops.  (but remember from the theory, it is clear that variable rate express lanes are designed to increase congestion in the normal lanes to get people to drive at different times or take alternative transit.  Since our surface roads are already congested and there are no real alternatives, that will not work here.

Inslee is directing the state Department of Transportation to make lane markers less confusing and improve express lane access points. And he also wants to eliminate tolls entirely during evening off-peak hours, weekends and holidays. He said the changes could be implemented as early as this spring.

We are not sure that will fix things, but it is interesting that the tolls are going away in the cheap times.  It does not say anything fixing congestion because there will still be tolls when the road is congested in the first place.  Maybe that is an attempt to incentivize people driving at different times.  It is just not clear.  The Governor is also advocating some other things:

He is advocating two projects:

Adding more lanes?  Eating up the shoulder and making state troopers’ jobs more dangerous?  Express lanes are supposed to solve these problems, not create requirements for more lanes.  The Governor says that Washington state is learning from its mistakes, though the fixes could take years.  Here we cannot afford years of construction and then a number of more years for FDOT to learn from its mistakes.

Here, the interstates need expansion, but not the outdated plan TBX plan.  We think they should fix Gandy, get a northern east-west route (to pull traffic from 275 in the first place), add an HOV or HOT lane and fix the bottlenecks FDOT has given us on I-275, then use the remainder for transit.  Most importantly, make a comprehensive, coordinated plan devoid of ideology and based on practicality that deals with what exists now, not what happened in 1995.  Some say express lanes are innovation, but actually having a coordinated, comprehensive plan would be real innovation in this area.

Transportation – Clearwater Skyride, Cont.

There was another article in the Times regarding the proposed Gondolas to Clearwater Beach, entitled “Tampa Bay weather no worry for gondolas, experts say.”  As the title suggests, the article discussed whether the weather would be a problem for operating gondolas in this area.  We have previously noted there are issues with wind and lightning. So what did we learn?

Operations in Portland, Ore., and New York City are the only two comparable U.S. systems, and they are in more moderate climates. But gondola cable cars have operated for years in high winds and rains in Europe and South America.

“There are always ways to design it to run in high winds,” said Oswald Graber, a consulting engineer who has built gondola systems across the world. “You cannot run a gondola in a lightning storm is the problem, you would have to shut down, but that is typically not for long.”

Graber said gondolas can operate in winds up to 45 mph. Other experts put that closer to 60 mph.

Bobby Deskins, a 10Weather WTSP meteorologist, said the Tampa Bay area experiences thunderstorms with lightning about 100 days a year, with average wind gusts of 40 mph.

In other words, even assuming that one can solve the wind issue (and people are willing to get in a gondola when there are high winds), the system will have to be shut down numerous times each year (like most afternoons in the summer) for lightning.  That sounds to us like a weather issue.

Downtown – The Quest for Parking

Parking has always been an issue downtown because the convenient spaces cost money – and there is a lack of useful transit not just within downtown but to get downtown.  As more people are going downtown, the problem is getting bigger.

Commuters are getting frustrated these days, winding their way to the top floors of downtown parking garages searching for elusive open spaces close to their offices.

Sometimes they find a spot, sometimes they don’t.

Convenient monthly parking spaces — spaces within two blocks of a commuter’s office — are becoming a challenge to find in the downtown core.

And with so much business growth and new development expected down the road, it will only get worse without some relief, said Karen Kress, director of transportation and planning for the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

Downtown employees, right now, need 1,400 parking spaces for regular monthly rentals, said Anne-Marie Ayers, a commercial real estate broker and first vice president at CBRE in the Bank of America building. 

With real transit, that need would like not exist.

“It’s important to get that number and figure out how to move people from the outlying areas. I think most of those [parking] spaces already exist,” Ayers said. “We need to look at what we already have and how we can use that to move people.”

It may not be so much about building more parking garages as about getting commuters to change their mindset, like getting them to walk, bike or take a shuttle to the office, even carpool with coworkers from a remote lot, Ayers said.

“We don’t have a parking problem,” she said. “We have a walking problem.”

Setting aside that the City does strange things like inexplicably eliminating street parking spaces in the middle of downtown (like here), it may be a walking problem, but that is really a problem of built environment and transit.  If you really want people to walk, give them good transit so they are not driving downtown in the first place and give them active streetscapes so that, when they walk, they do not feel they are extras in some dystopian fantasy (just try walking from a parking lot at the edge of downtown by all the other surface parking in the middle of summer).  But, as transit is not really coming anytime soon, what are some proposed solutions?

A partnership Parking Task Force is looking at possible long-term solutions.

Task force members have already zeroed in on what could be a quick fix for at least some commuters.

There are both city and private lots along the outskirts of downtown Tampa with spaces to fill.

The issue is getting commuters to use them, then getting those drivers to their jobs.

The city’s “interstate lots” north of downtown between Scott and K streets under Interstate 275 have about 200 parking spaces available for monthly leasing, said Ocea Lattimore, director of logistics and assets management for the City of Tampa.

“A lot of people are looking for something closer to their office. We are trying to develop some park-and-ride options to make it more convenient for those who must park on the outskirts,” she said. Lattimore is working with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority to see if it can modify its free In Towner trolley route to pick up and drop off at those perimeter lots.

Kress has obtained state and federal grants and is seeking private donations from downtown hotels and office towers to pay for eight to 10 electric six-seater carts to shuttle commuters from remote private parking lots to offices in the downtown core.

Which is fine but will leave people waiting for shuttle rides at rush hour.  What else?

Kress is also promoting other possible options for people who work downtown, including walking and the Coast Bike Share program that has successfully operated downtown for more than a year now.

One option already available that downtown employees have not taken advantage of is the vanpool program sponsored by the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, or TBARTA.

“It’s growing,” said Senior Planner Michael Case. Just not downtown.

TBARTA, in a joint participation agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation, handles the van pool program, a bike buddy program and a carpool program to help people connect with rides. There even is a program for emergency rides home if a van pool participant has to work overtime.

Which is also fine, as far as it goes.  But it makes more sense with people driving to one office.

Frank Grebowski, owner of the European Wax Center on East Jackson Street, said keeping staff downtown is as much of a challenge as drawing customers. “I would hate to lose staff because they can’t find a reasonable parking spot.

“There are four entities that all need help: downtown retailers, the arts and sports community, the leasing agents that need blocks of parking for perspective clients and the residents,” Grebowski said. “They all have different needs, they are all valid and it’s difficult to find a solution that helps one without hindering another.”

Grebowski believes one answer for the retailers downtown would be for the city to buy and operate a central lot just for retail customers.

Maybe.  Though how they would do that is a question.  Isn’t that what street parking is for, anyway? (There was also some mention of the Poe Garage being empty.  Setting aside parking rates, anyone who has parked there knows that garage has an incredibly poor design.)

Walking by the large parking lots and blank building walls (which is what you mostly pass when you park at remote lots downtown) seems far worse than walking the same distance of activated streets.  Moreover, walking a few blocks in the summer (especially the afternoon) is far worse than in January.  Real shade trees or awnings would make a big difference.  If you want people to walk, give them a decent walking experience.

For now, the InTowner seems the best idea for getting people around in downtown (an expanded streetcar would be good if the price is kept down and there is frequent, useful service).  But the reality is that, for downtown to really be what it should, we need real transit that gets you to downtown at a point where you do not have to walk that far and can leave the car at home (or in the park and ride).  Until then, the convenient spaces will be too expensive for many and the other spaces will be, well, inconvenient.  Until you get real transit, you are dealing with Band-Aids.

Downtown – A Renovation

There was news about Rivergate Tower:

One of downtown Tampa’s most iconic structures is about to get an $11 million makeover that will open up the property to the urban waterfront.

The owners of Rivergate Tower, the cylindrical skyscraper at Kennedy Boulevard and Ashley Drive, are gearing up for the renovation that will include additional waterfront dining entertainment space, along with direct elevator access from the outdoor patio to the Riverwalk.

There are no renderings with the article, but having access to the Riverwalk is a good thing.  Hopefully, this will start a trend to actually connect the older buildings on the river which do not really interact with it.

Bayshore – Another Building

Right now the Aquatica condo at Bayshore and Bay-to-Bay appears to be under construction, though there was no big announcement.  And now there is another proposal for that general area.

Tampa-based Skyway Capital Partners LLC has proposed a 250-foot apartment tower at 2907 W. Bay to Bay Blvd., on the surface parking lot bound by South Ysabella Avenue and West Barcelona Street.

The tower will be 22 or 23 stories, depending on final approvals, said Truett Gardner, a partner with Gardner Brewer Martinez-Monfort PA, who represents Skyway.

Alfonso Architects is the designer.

It will include 168 apartments, a mix of one- and two-bedroom units that will average 1,000 square feet, Gardner said. The development will include 505 parking spaces.

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

That is cool with us.  But it does point out that the Bay-to-Bay area, with a very small walkable area near MacDill, could really be a nice walkable area with just a little work.

Seminole Heights – Nope

The proposed apartment building project on Florida Avenue has died.

The developer behind the Warehouse Lofts, an adaptive reuse project in Seminole Heights, has walked away from plans to build a new mixed-use development in the neighborhood.

Wesley Burdette was under contract to acquire 5023 N. Florida Ave., which is owned by the Centre for Women. Burdette in November unveiled plans for an apartment-and-retail development on the site, with about 50 loft-style residential units and a 2,800-square-foot storefront.

The city’s architectural review commission sent those plans back to the drawing board in early December, voting to continue the hearing in January after several residents spoke out against the project. Opponents to the development said that at five stories and 55 feet, the building would be out of context with the Seminole Heights historic district.

Of course, it fit completely within the actual plans for Seminole Heights (see “Seminole Heights – The Apartment Building and the Choice“) and would have helped revitalize Florida Avenue as a truly urban, walkable area.  It could easily have been tweaked, as noted on URBN Tampa Bay. (See “Seminole Heights – Constructive Discussion”) In any event, the Business Journal tells us:

As more developers zero in on Tampa’s urban core and surrounding neighborhoods, there’s increased scrutiny of proposed projects. In August, Oxford Exchange co-owner Blake Casper led an opposition movement that helped kill plans for a mixed-use development on Grand Central Avenue.

The Grand Central issue was an issue of a bad design, not the scale (at least not for us – unless you are talking about the horrible garage), which is completely different.

As we said in discussing the Seminole Heights project earlier:

What really matters is that the neighborhood (and the City) needs to decide what they want. Do they want to have a real, urban neighborhood in the middle of a city where the major commercial roads are activated and thriving or do they want to promote the status quo on Florida and Nebraska (which have improved but have a long way to go) and hope for a small town main street on a major thoroughfare (which is not the adopted plan)? We have an opinion, but the decision is theirs.

If it is the latter, they want to be mindful that the small town attitude, when applied in parts of the area, has left us without any transportation solutions or proper development over the years.

Rays/St Pete – The Trop Lot

St. Pete finally put out a request for master planners for the Trop site.

The city sounded the call Tuesday for urban planners: Deliver a vision of how to transform 85 acres of parking lots and an aging domed stadium into a powerful economic engine for the city.

And do it fast.

The city issued a request for qualifications that has a quick turnaround. Bids for the project must be returned by March 25.

City Council members, according to the schedule, will vote on the final contract by June.

* * *

A finished plan is due Sept. 30 after a frenzied summer of public meetings and a dream factory production of a future full of jobs, walkable, urban spaces and tempting housing options. It’s all intended to be an irresistible lure to keep the Tampa Bay Rays at the Tropicana Field site and attract full partners in development.

So what do they want in the plan?

Some city priorities:

At this point, there is not much to say about this.  We don’t think it really changes anything, but we shall see what comes of it.

Where Is It?

Sometimes we read articles that make us wonder about geography and the media.  This week we read this:

The Renaissance Center office park in the West Shore area has been sold for $108 million in what is being called Tampa Bay’s largest suburban office sale in the past year.

The 71-acre park, which includes five buildings with a total of 532,371 square feet, was built between 1997 and 2001 to house Capital One’s customer service call center operations. Apart from a deli and a few other small businesses, Capital One and WellCare Health Plans are the only tenants.

This is a map of where this complex is.  It is in Town’N’Country – and always has been.  In fact, per Google maps, it is about 6 miles from Avion Park, on Spruce near the airport entrance, which is the same distance from Avion Park to Gandy and more than Avion Park to Downtown (which also tells you how short and doable a rail line from downtown to Westshore really is and dense, though not walkable, central Tampa really is). We understand that there is leasing/real estate value in saying it is Westshore, but it isn’t.

MacDill – Whither NOAA?

It seems that there may be an issue with NOAA’s hurricane hunter space at MacDill.

For more than two decades, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been flying hurricane-hunter aircraft out of Hangar 5 at MacDill Air Force Base.

Now, the Air Force wants the hangar back and NOAA will have to vacate by July 1, 2017.

It is unclear where the NOAA operation will go — whether to another location on base, somewhere off base, or out of the Tampa area entirely.

Hangar 5 is home to NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center, which directs three Hurricane Hunter aircraft and six other specialized environmental monitoring planes, NOAA spokesman David Hall said in an email to The Tribune.

NOAA and the Air Force are discussing what comes next, Hall said, and NOAA is “exploring both short- and long-term aircraft facility solutions.”

The Aircraft Operations Center operates, manages, and maintains NOAA’s aircraft fleet, which has been based at MacDill since 1993, Hall said. It has about 95 personnel.

The Air Force needs to make room for the expected arrival sometime after September 2017 of eight new KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling jets, said Air Force Capt. Jessica Brown, spokeswoman for the 6th Air Mobility Wing, the base host unit. 

It is good to get more tankers at MacDill, though the area needs to keep the NOAA planes, too.  Hopefully, it will.

A major weather research station being evicted from its longtime home at MacDill Air Force Base should remain in the Tampa area, maybe at one of the two local airports, U.S. Rep David Jolly of Florida said.

Jolly made the point to U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on Tuesday during a hearing in Washington of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee.

The Commerce Department oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The center operates, manages and maintains NOAA’s aircraft fleet at its Aircraft Operations Center, based at MacDill’s Hanagr[sic] 5 since 1993. The operations center houses three Hurricane Hunter aircraft and six other environmental monitoring planes, and employs about 95 people.

* * *

If MacDill doesn’t have another option for NOAA, Jolly said, he will work with NOAA and Secretary Pritzker to explore options at St. Petersburg-Clearwater and Tampa International airports, both of which have land and ramp space available.

It seems to us that putting the planes at the St. Pete-Clearwater airport, with the big Coast Guard presence, makes the most sense.  We shall see.

TIA & Some History

We were doing a little research and came across an interesting old article from 1980 about the push for a Tampa-London flight. (You can see it here) We already had Amsterdam and Mexico City flights then. (We have neither right now)

The article shows a number of things.  First, there was a push for such service from 1971.  Second, the push was a joint push between Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, which is interesting in that we are still searching for comprehensive regionalism. Finally, is this:

The British are seeking nine “gateways” themselves, said Beckman, and one reason for the interest in Tampa is the city’s reputation for attracting foreign visitors.

That tells us two things. First, public pronouncements have been consistent for quite some time.  Second, if we had really pushed between then and now (rather than having some success then becoming complacent), we would not be playing as much catch-up now.  Our potential was always there.  It just hasn’t been fulfilled.

Luckily the airport director and his staff are getting out in front of their charge with the master plan and push for flights (and stuff like this, opportunities to re-establish service like this – plus the push for regular Cuba service in the face of competition from hubs, though we need San Francisco flights), not to mention shortest TSA wait times.

If only other officials could get out in front of other transportation (and other) issues.

Beer

Finally, it is that time of year again. USA Today is doing its reader poll of best beer scenes.  You can vote for Tampa here.

 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2016 4:26 AM

    Direct flights to SFO would be nice but for the tech and IT communities SJC would be much better.

  2. B. Wills permalink
    February 26, 2016 9:06 AM

    The enthrallment over the possible purchase of CSX’s entire bay area rail network for use in creating a “commuter” rail system is grossly misplaced. The Tampa Bay Area does not need commuter rail, which is typically longer-haul service from outlying suburbs and exurbs that have large, affluent working populations who commute to the big city for high-paying jobs; hence, commuter rail is only suitable for mega-cities like New York, Chicago, London, etc. that have huge, CENTRALIZED concentrations of jobs. Tampa Bay is developed in a more diffused manner, with activity centers scattered around the area that need to become connected with RAPID rail transit, more along the lines of a regional metro system. The alignment of CSX lines in the area, (with the possible exception of the connection between Clearwater & St. Pete) is entirely unsuitable for use as metro rail transit, because most of it is located far from high-activity corridors. However, CSX is not willing to sell just the parts of their local network that would actually be valuable for use as transit corridors; it is a all-or-nothing proposition. This will amount to a corporate giveaway, with the result being a system that does not go where people want to go, and the foregone conclusion that “rail will not work in the bay area”.

    The type of rail needed in this area is that which follows established busy corridors connecting existing activity centers, so that we can leverage and build upon the density that already exists along those corridors, and have more transit riders from the very beginning. As density increases, express metro service can be implemented during peak hours with fewer stops to satisfy an emerging need for longer-haul service with the same infrastructure, once the need becomes evident. A mishmash of modes (15mph sky-rides, ferries, buses in highway emergency lanes, slow-moving toy trolleys such as that in downtown Tampa) operated under multiple jurisdictions is a fool’s errand vs. one unified regional metro system implemented with walkable streetscapes, safe bikeways, and sensible feeder bus service.

    An initial backbone should be built by Hillsborough & Pinellas counties, connecting Ybor, Downtown Tampa, Kennedy Blvd. corridor, Westshore / Airport, Pinellas Gateway, and Downtown St. Pete. Then, each county could build out within their own areas off of that backbone. A toy demonstration project between Downtown

    Is it more expensive to build such a system? Yes; however, the higher one-time capital cost of establishing a proper premium rail transit system that many more people choose to use, because it is better than driving, and goes where people already want to go, is money better spent than going on the cheap, and then having huge ongoing operating losses due to low ridership and lack of density.

  3. B. Wills permalink
    February 26, 2016 9:09 AM

    Correction: A toy demonstration project between Downtown Tampa & airport would be a huge waste.

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